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Surah Al-A‘la : 87 : 1 -19 


Surah Al-A‘la 

(The Most Exalted) 

This Surah is Makki, and it has 19 verses 


With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful 

Verses 1 - 19 

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Pronounce the purity of the name of your Most Exalted 
Lord, [1] who created (everything), then made (it) well, 
[2] and who determined a measure (for everything), then 
guided (it), [3] and who brought forth pasturage, [4] then 
turned it into blackening stubble. [5] We will make you 
recite, then you will not forget [6] except that which 
Allah wills. Indeed He knows what is manifest and what 
is hidden. [7] And We will facilitate for you (to reach) 

Surah Al-A‘la : 87 : 1 - 19 


the easiest way. [8] So, extend advice (to people) if 
advice is useful. [9] The one who fears (Allah) will take 
to the advice, [10] and it will be avoided by the most 
wretched [11] who will enter the Biggest Fire, [12] then 
he will neither die therein, nor live (a life worth 
mentioning). [13] Success is surely achieved by him who 
purifies himself, [14] and pronounces the name of his 
Lord, then offers prayer. [15] But you prefer the worldly 
life, [16] while the Hereafter is much better and much 
more durable. [17] Indeed this is (written) in the earlier 
divine scripts, [18] the scripts of Ibrahim and Musa. [19] 

Ruling [1] 

Scholars have ruled that when anyone recites the verse: 

(Pronounce the purity of the name of your most exalted Lord... 87 : 1 ) 
it is commendable to say: 

. * ** 


'I pronounce the purity of my most exalted Lord.' 

This was the practice of all the noble Companions, like Sayyidna 
‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbaa, Ibn ‘Umar, Ibn Zubair, Abu Musa and ‘Abdullah 
Ibn Mas‘ud dJl ^ Jt Whenever they started reciting the Surah, 

they would recite: 

'I pronounce the purity of my most exalted Lord.' [Qurtubi]. 

It should be noted that the desirability of reciting this is outside of the 

Ruling [2] 

Sayyidna ‘Uqbah Ibn ‘Amir Al-Juhani narrates that when the 
Surah Al-A‘la was revealed, the Holy Prophet instructed: 

'Say this (SubhanaRabbiyal-A‘la) in your sujud [prostrations]' 

JLeVl j£j ([L.I ^ (Pronounce the purity of the name of your Most 
exalted Lord.) The word tasbih means 'to pronounce the purity' and 

signifies to 'honour the name of your Lord'. When the name of 
Allah is pronounced, it should be done with utmost humility and respect. 

Surah Al-A‘la : 87 : 1 - 19 


His name should be kept pure and free from anything that is unbecoming 
to His sublime status. Allah should be called by the names He Himself has 
stated or taught the Holy Prophet !§f. It is not permitted to call Him by 
any other name. 

Ruling [3] 

Besides, ft is also included in the above imperative that there are some 
names exclusively meant for Allah; calling human beings or any other 
creation by those specific names is contrary to declaring the purity of 
Allah. Therefore, it is not permissible. [QurtubI]. Nowadays, people are not 
particular about names like ‘Abdur Rahman, ‘Abdur-Razzaq, ‘Abdul 
Ghaffar and ‘Abdul Quddus. They call the persons bearing these names 
'Rahman', 'Razzaq 1 , 'Ghaffar 1 , 'Quddus' and so on, for short. People have 
got into the habit of shortening such names without realising that the 
speakers as well as the listeners are committing a sin. People commit this 
joyless sin day and night without any reason. 

Some commentators interpret the word 'ism' does not mean 'name' in 
this verse. Instead, they say, it is referring to the Dhat or the 'Being' of 
Allah. According to the Arabic expressions, this interpretation is not 
unlikely, and the Qur’an has used the word 'ism' in that sense also. The 
Hadith that instructs us to recite the tasbih in sajdah [prostration] is not 
"I pronounce the purity of the name of my most exalted Lord, but "I 
pronounce the purity of my most exalted Lord". This indicates that in this 
context 'ism' is not used in the sense of 'name' but it refers to the Being of 
Allah Himself. [QurtubI] 

Subtle and Profound Wisdom in the Creation of the Universe 

ij ill j iSy jL- ij all (who created [everything], then made [it] 
well, and who determined a measure [for everything], then guided 
[it]...87:2,3). All these are the attributes of the 'Most Exalted Lord'. The 
first attribute is khalaqa which does not simply mean 'to make' or 
'manufacture'. It has a deeper significance: 'to bring out something from 
pure non-existence into the realm of existence without the help of any 
pre-existing matter 1 . (This is the correct meaning of 'creation 1 . If 
something is made with the help of some pre-existing matter, it cannot be 
called 'creation' in its original sense.) This is not within the power of 
anyone else. Only the perfect power of Allah can bring things into 
existence, whenever He wills, without the help of any pre-existing matter. 

Surah Al-Afia : 87 : 1 -19 


The second attribute, which is connected with takhliq (creation), is 
sawwa. This word is derived from taswiyah, and it literally means 'to 
make well or equal'. The verse signifies that Allah made the constitution 
of everything symmetrical or made it congruously consistent in its several 
parts, the body structure, shape and size, limbs and organs. Man and 
every other animal is adapted to the requirements of wisdom. The hands 
and legs, the tips of the fingers and toes have joints with different types of 
springy connective tissues that make it possible to bend and fold in 
different ways. If we look at another limb or organ of human body, its 
symmetry and balance baffles our imagination and is sufficient for us to 
believe in the consummate wisdom and power of the Creator of the 

The third attribute is qaddara which is derived from taqdlr and it 
means 'to determine; to measure; to balance; to design symmetrically; to 
decree/ decide 1 . The word is used in the last sense here. The verse purports 
to say that things in the world have not been created without purpose. 
Everything has been created for a specific purpose, and has been 
endowed with natural capacities to fit its function. If we look carefully, 
the principle does not apply only to specific species. Every member of the 
universe has been assigned a specific function to perform. We witness the 
manifestation of the assignments in the sky, the stars, lightning, rain, 
humans, animals, vegetation and minerals. 

Maulana Rumi *1)1 j says: 

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'The earth, the wind, the water and the fire_all of them are 

slaves of Allah. 

According to me and you, they are senseless, but according to 
Allah, all of them are alive and sensible. 

Allah has especially geared man and every species of animals to do 
particular works and they perform them according to their natural 
inclination, and their predisposition pivots around their respective tasks. 

j&\ j>\ J£ . 

Allah has created everything for a particular purpose 
And has filled its heart with inclination towards it. 

Surah Al-ATa : 87 : 1 -19 


The fourth attribute of Allah is fa-hada 'then guided it'. In other 
words, The Creator of the universe did not create things and left them to 
their own mercy to perform their particular function as they like, but they 
are shown the way in which they should be performed. As a matter of 
fact, He guided the entire creation by equipping each member of it with 
suitable nature to function for which it was created, whether the member 
is the sky or celestial creation, or it is the earth or the earthly creation. 
They all possess a special type of sense, though it is of a lower than that of 
man. The Qur’an says: 

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'Our Lord is He Who gave to each thing its form and nature, 
then guided it aright. [20:50]' 

As a result, since the inception of their creation, the skies, the earth, 
the stars and planets, mountains and oceans are all performing their 
functions accurately, without any failure or deviation. Humans and 
animals, in particular, whose intellect and sensibility can be observed 
easily, have been invested with capabilities of fulfilling their minute 
needs and repelling harmful things in a way that baffles the one who 
thinks about it. Since man possesses sense and intelligence of a higher 
degree, his capabilities may not be so much surprising, but let us look into 
wild animals, ferocious animals or beasts of prey, birds and insects. Each 
and everyone of them is able to obtain its necessities of life. They are able 
to find their habitats. They have not acquired the skills of fulfilling their 
individual and communal needs through a teacher that may educate or 
train them, nor did they need any school or college to acquire this 
knowledge and skill. Their education and training comes directly from the 
Creator of the universe. It is this divine guidance that has been referred 
to in the Holy Qur’an by saying, 

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'Our Lord is He Who gave to each thing its form and nature, 
then guided it aright. [20:50]' 

and in this Surah thus: 

’and who determined a measure (for everything), then guided 

(it), [3]’ 

Surah Al-A‘la : 87: 1-19 


The Knowledge of Science is a Divine Gift to Man 

Allah has equipped man with the higher order of intelligence and 

sense. The entire universe is made subservient to him,_the earth, 

mountains and oceans and everything created therein are made to serve 
man and created for his benefit. However, full advantage of them is not 
possible unless man acquires knowledge and skill to put various things 
together and produce a new item. Nature has provided man with 
intelligence and understanding to excavate mountains and dive into the 
oceans to obtain minerals and marine objects. He composes certain items 
like wood, iron, steel, copper, brass and so on and makes new items of his 
need. This knowledge and technology is not dependent on scientific 
research and college or university education. Even illiterate people have 
been doing this since the inception of human existence . This is intrinsic 
science that Allah has endowed upon man as a natural gift. Later, man 
developed the capability of doing technical and scientific research. He 
thus made progress in various fields of science and technology. The 
capability to do this is also a Divine gift. 

Obviously, science and technology does not create anything, but it 
merely shows the way to use the created things. The initial knowledge 
about their use is taught by Allah, but there is a wide scope to make 
progress in it by the capabilities Allah has bestowed to man, the 
manifestation of which we are witnessing in this scientific age day by day, 
and what further range of these abilities and talents will manifest in 
future is unknown. All this is the interpretation of hada ’[He] guided (it), 
[3] In other words, Allah has placed in them potentials and capabilities to 
perform their natural functions. But alas! the scientists are getting more 
and more negligent, rather blind to these realities day by day. 

esy-' ‘<1^3 (and who brought forth pasturage, then 

turned it into a blackening stubble....87:4,5) 

The word mar‘d means ’pasturage 1 . This is the land that has grass 
growing on it, and that is used for animals to graze. The word ghutha’ 
refers to ’stubble, and scum borne upon the surface of a torrent’. The word 
ahiva is derived from the root huwwah which refers to ’a kind of black 
colour that comes upon a dense vegetation’. The verse purports to depict 
the Divine power and wisdom related to herbage and vegetation. He 
grows the green vegetation and then He gradually turns it into black 

SurahAl-A‘la : 87:1-19 


colour, and it loses its freshness. This directs man's attention also to his 
end. His body radiating with health, beauty, smartness and alertness is a 
Divine gift, but its tenure of life is limited. Eventually it will come to an 

aJJI VI Vi (We will make you recite, then you will not 

forget, except that which Allah wills. Indeed He knows what is manifest 
and what is hidden....87:6,7). In the preceding verses, Allah depicted the 
manifestation of His Omnipotence and [profound] wisdom. Thereafter, a 
few guidelines are given to the Holy Prophet regarding his prophetic 
obligation. Before putting forth the guidelines, he is given the cheerful 
news of making his task easier. When the Qur’an was revealed initially, 
and as Jibra’il SB® began to recite, the Holy Prophet made haste to 
repeat, lest any word or sentence should be lost. He was, therefore, told 
not to make haste with it, and to wait until the angel had delivered the 
whole message, and then to repeat the words of the revelation, being 
assured that it was a Divine arrangement, and that nothing would be 
lost. On this occasion, he is still more plainly told: 'then you will not forget, 
except that which Allah wills.' 

While Allah made the Holy Prophet 5§f remember all of the Qur’an, 
there were certain verses which Allah made him forget, because they had 
been abrogated. This was done by Allah's command, and is not done 
without reason. There are several ways in which this is done. One way of 
doing this is that a second clear injunction is revealed contrary to the first 
injunction. Another way of abrogating a particular verse is to obliterate a 
verse from the memory of the Holy Prophet Ȥf and the memory of all 
other Muslims, as stated in: 

'Whenever We abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten. 

Some scholars interpret the exceptive sentence 'except that which 
Allah wills' differently. They say that for some reason Allah blots out 
temporarily a verse from Holy Prophet's memory, but he may 
remember it again, in support of which the following narrative may be 
adduced: One day the Holy Prophet 2§§ recited a Surah, but omitted one 
of the verses. Sayyidna Ubayy Ibn Ka‘b 4&, one of the Prophet's scribes, 

Surah Al-A‘la : 87 : 1 -19 


was present. He thought it might have been abrogated. On inquiry, the 
Holy Prophet -it said that it was not abrogated, but that it was omitted by 
mistake. [Qurtubl], In this interpretation, it may be summarised that 
forgetting a verse temporarily, and then remembering it again, does not 
go against the promise made in this verse. [In fact, it is an exception from 
this promise.] Allah knows best! 

c(And We will facilitate for you [to reach] the easiest 
way....87:8). The phrase 'the easiest way' refers to the sacred laws of 
Islam. Apparently, according to the demand of the context, it should have 
been stated 'We will make the Shari‘ah easy for you'. But the Qur’an 
chose, instead, to state 'And We will facilitate for you (to reach) the easiest 
way. [8]'. The reason for that, probably, is to indicate that Allah will 
predispose him to the sacred laws, so that they will become part of his 
nature, and he will become an embodiment of Sharfah. 

(So, extend advice [to people] if advice is 
useful....87:9) The preceding verses described the facilities created by 
Allah for the Holy Prophet «§£ in performing his Prophetic obligation. This 
verse commands him to perform his obligation. The verse contains the 
conditional particle 1 in' (if) that apparently makes the sentence a 
conditional statement. But, in fact, the command is not intended to be 
made conditional. It is rather an emphatic statement. This is similar to the 
grammatical phenomenon in many languages. The particle 'if' is 
sometimes used when something is always true. It is used for introducing 
a situation that always has the same meaning, result or effect. For 
example: "If you are a 'man' [obviously he is a man], then you will have 
to do this work;" In neither of such sentences, the particle 'if is 
conditional, but rather emphatic. Likewise, the verse purports to say that 
preaching truth and righteousness is certainly useful. Therefore, the 
beneficial thing should never be abandoned at anytime. 


J>'y iiil oi (Success is surely achieved by him who purifies 
himself,..87:14) The word tazakka is derived from zakah, the primitive 
meaning of which is 'to purify'. The zakah of wealth is so called because it 
purifies the rest of man's wealth for him. In this context, the word 
tazakka is used in a general sense, which comprehends the purity of faith 
and character, and purity of wealth. 

Surah Al-A‘la : 87:1-19 


JUai Z'j (and pronounces the name of his Lord, then offers 

prayer....87:15). This covers all categories of prayer, obligatory as well as 
supererogatory. Some commentators say that it refers especially to ‘Id 
prayers. This interpretation too can fall under the preceding category. 

djsJ* (But you prefer the worldly life,...87:16). Sayyidna 
‘Abdullah Ibn Mas‘ud says that people generally prefer the worldly 
blessings and comforts to the blessings and comforts of the Hereafter, 
because the former is visible and readily available, while the latter is 
invisible and unavailable readily. People unaware of reality preferred the 
visible to the invisible, which became the cause of eternal loss. In order to 
spare them the eternal loss, Allah, through His Messengers and Books, 
described to them the blessings and comforts of the Hereafter so clearly as 
if they can perceive them [through their sense organs]. It has been made 
plain to them that what they think is readily available and preferred, is 
actually fragile and will very soon perish. It is unwise to put one’s heart 
into, or faith in, it and waste one’s energy on it. Thus the Qur’an says: 

(while the Hereafter is much better and much more 
durable...87:17). The verse purports to warn those who prefer this life to 
the Hereafter that they should use their intelligence to find out what they 
have preferred and what they have abandoned. They are, first of all, 
made to realise that the highest degree of comfort and pleasure in this life 
is not free from the mixture of grief and hardship. In the second place, it 
is not permanent. We experience in our daily life that a king of today 
becomes a pauper tomorrow. A vigorous youth of today becomes old 
tomorrow. In the Hereafter, on the other hand, there will be freedom from 
both these defects. All its blessings and comforts will be ’much better' and 
they cannot be compared to the blessings and comforts of this life. Most 
importantly, it is abqa 'much more durable'. 

Let us consider the following scenario: It is said to a person that there 
are two houses in front of him, one of which is a magnificent mansion, 
fully furnished and another an ordinary, substandard house, not properly 
furnished. He has the choice to take the mansion, but only for a month or 
two. Thereafter, he will have to vacate the mansion. Or he may take the 
underdeveloped house that he will own permanently. Which of the two 
houses a wise person will prefer? The answer is obvious that he will prefer 
the second option. On this analogy, one should prefer the blessings of the 

Surah Al-A‘la : 87 :1 -19 


Hereafter even if, for argument's sake, they are substandard, because 
they are permanent and eternal. But the fact is that they are not only 
permanent, but also much better and far more superior to the worldly 
comforts. In this situation only an unfortunate fool will prefer the 
blessings of this life to the bounties of the Hereafter. 

J!j3i Jl lik 0! (Indeed this is [written] in the 
earlier divine scripts, the scripts of Ibrahim and Musa.... 87:18, 19] In 
other words, either all the themes of this Surah or its last theme, that the 
Hereafter is much better and much more durable than this life, was 
written in the earlier Divine scriptures. It is further explicated that this 
theme was written in the scriptures of Prophets Ibrahim and Musa 
Probably, it refers to other scriptures that were given to Prophet Musa 
before Torah. It is also possible that it refers to Torah itself. 

Themes of the Scripts of Prophet Ibrahim 

Ajurri transmits a narration from Sayyidna Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari 4^ 
that he inquired from the Prophet Ǥf as to the contents of the scripts of 
Prophet Ibrahim and the Holy Prophet replied that they 
contained educating parables . A story is told in it about a tyrant king 
where he is addressed and told: You haughty, arrogant and oppressive 
ruler! I did not give you kingdom so that you may amass wealth, but I 
had given you power so that you may let the supplication of the oppressed 
against the oppressor reach me, because my law does not reject the 
supplication of an oppressed, even though it may be uttered by an 

Another parable addresses the general public thus: A wise person 
should divide his time into three parts. One part should be reserved for 
the worship of his Lord and supplication to Him. The second part should 
be reserved for self-assessment of his deeds, and reflection on the 
Omnipotence and creation of Allah. The third part should be allocated for 
acquisition of livelihood and fulfilling the natural needs. It further 
imparts that a wise person should keep himself abreast of the 
circumstances of his time, and keep himself busy in performing his 
intended work. He should take care of his tongue. He who takes speech as 
one of his works, his speech will be confined only to the things of real 
need . 

Surah Al-A‘la : 87 : 1 -19 


Themes of the Scripts of Prophet Musa 

Sayyidna Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari 4^0 says that he then inquired from 
the Holy Prophet as to the contents of the scripts of Prophet Musa SsBl 
and the Holy Prophet «|t replied that they contained lessons of wisdom. 
Some of them are as follows: 

• I am surprised at the person who believes that he will certainly 
die, and yet he is lives happily. 

• I am surprised at the person who believes in Divine destiny, and 
yet he is despondent and aggrieved. 

• I am surprised at the person who experiences the vicissitudes of 
life and rise and fall of nations, and yet he is content with the 

• I am surprised at the person who believes in the Reckoning of the 
Hereafter, and yet he abandons [good] deeds. 

Sayyidna Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari says that he asked the Holy 
Prophet Ȥf whether anything from these scriptures was revealed to him, 
he replied in the affirmative and asked Sayyidna Abu Dharr Ghifari 
to recite verses 14-19 of this Surah. [QurtubT] 

The Commentary on 
Surah Al-A‘la 
Ends here